The lonely grave.


Sailors Grave Memorial is part of the historic reserve maintained by the Royal New Zealand Navy.


Topographic map warning

Topo50 maps shows some tracks that have been permanently closed to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease.

The lonely grave. Photo: Melanie Charters.
The lonely grave

Surrounded by a white picket fence, the lonely grave occupies a small part of the historic reserve and is maintained by the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Sign on beach showing the way to the memorial. Photo: Melanie Charters.
Sign on beach pointing the way to the memorial

Sailors, sealers, and whalers were among the first Europeans to frequent New Zealand waters.

Deaths among sailors were not uncommon, and burying crew ‘at sea’ was standard practice. Land graves were rarer and serve as reminders of the hard physical labour and the treacherous conditions sailors endured.

In May 1842, 22 year old William Sampson, a sailor on board the British Navy ship HMS Tortoise, accidentally drowned in Te Karo Bay after the boat he was in overturned. According to the original kauri headboard “he drowned in the surf”.

Set against the spectacular backdrop of the Coromandel, numerous trees within the adjoining Pohutukawa Grove Recreation Reserve provide shaded picnic areas. A track leads down to the historic reserve and the gorgeous Te Karo Bay which is perfect for swimming and kayaking. At low tide a scenic one hour walk will take you around the headland to Otara Bay.

Getting there

The reserve is located off SH25, between Whangamata and Whitianga. Take Sailors Grave Rd to the car park at Te Karo Bay.

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